November 16th, 2009


Courting the Bull: An Anthology of Expatriate Literature in Spain

We're British, Canadian, and American, sixteen writers with one common denominator: we came to Spain to live, so we see the country in a way that tourists never will.

In her introduction to the anthology, editor Sara E. Rogers says:

"Expatriate literature blends the worlds the writer has emerged from and the world the writer now lives in. In Spain, that heady cocktail is then spiked with a complementary, sometimes interchangeable and sometimes hostile multiculturalism — a necessary and exceptional cross-fertilization of life and art."

I'm in this anthology with "The Highest Mile," an essay about hiking the Camino de Santiago in the mountains northwest of Madrid, where I may or may not have glimpsed God.

The anthology is divided Essay, Fiction, and Poetry, and I think the essays are the strongest part of the book. If you've never loved overseas, you should buy the book to learn what living overseas is really like — or rather, why it can be so funny.

Michael Raphan and his Spanish girlfriend discover they don't have the bilingual language skills to communicate in an embarrassing situation. Anita Haas discovers just how unmotivated English class students can be. Linda Palfreeman and her family move to a small town and meet the very Spanish neighbors. Lenox Napier gets thrown into a Franco-era jail for a couple of days. Matthew Johnson gets locked in the subway at night. More seriously, Megan McNeil bids a teary farewell to Spain, and Amy Katz Kaminsky remembers her first job in New York.

The fiction is a little weaker, not for lack of good ideas but because the writers vary in their level of skill. Still, all the works deliver an insider view of Spain. The stories are by Anita Haas, Violeta Braña Lafourcade, Rob Innis, Megan McNeil, and Lawrence Schimel.

The poetry, too, varies in quality, and only some have connections with Spain. The poets are Marjorie Kanter, Shiva Roofeh, Christopher North, Ben Gutteridge, and Stewart Barclay.

Buy Courting the Bull at

Sample it at an open mic at Café Concierto La Fídula, calle Huertas 57, Madrid, on Wednesday, November 18. Performing will begin at 9 p.m. See you there.

— Sue Burke